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Football Practice Report: Aug. 19

Aug 19, 2021

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

In the wake of Saturday's scrimmage for the Oregon football team, head coach Mario Cristobal made clear what the season-ticket holders in Autzen Stadium saw first-hand – freshman Ty Thompson had the best night of all the quarterbacks.

But Cristobal also has been clear that senior Anthony Brown deserved to open camp atop the practice order, and Brown remained there as the Ducks completed their second full week of preseason camp Thursday. Cristobal also spoke of the "massive step" freshman Jay Butterfield has taken, and acknowledged that limitations due to a nagging injury have hampered another second-year freshman, Robby Ashford.

All of which is to say, there's still much to sort out for UO offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead, two weeks into camp and a little over two weeks out from the Ducks' season opener on Sept. 4.

"The guys come out every day and they compete against a standard," Moorhead said Thursday. "Certainly the scrimmage was a snapshot of what people were able to see relative to camp and the quarterbacks' development. But it was just a small piece of it. It hasn't really changed anything."

Senior quarterback Anthony Brown

The Ducks will cap this week with their second and final preseason scrimmage. It will be a chance for the offense to even the scales a bit with the defense; in last week's scrimmage the defense started with the edge, though the offense had more success in situational work.

"We're very fortunate to be able to go against a defense of this caliber on a daily basis," Moorhead said. "Coach always uses the term 'iron sharpens iron,' so it's another opportunity to go against a great defense, and to help push them to get better."

Moorhead said the first scrimmage reinforced that the Ducks are blessed with talent and depth, and that the staff has fostered a competitive culture. The second scrimmage will be a chance to show that again, more frequently.

"There's an improved level of execution" as camp progresses, Moorhead said. "We've just got to get better with our consistency."

Freshman offensive tackle Jaylan Jeffers

Practice highlights: The major scrimmage situation Thursday was an overtime drill. Brown and the No. 1 offense got inside the red zone with a reception by Mycah Pittman and inside the 5-yard line with a catch by Johnny Johnson III, but the drive stalled there. … The twos responded quickly with a touchdown. Seven McGee opened the possession with an explosion play and finished off the drive with some hard yards across the goal line. …

In a period requiring the offense to rely on tempo, Brown and the ones moved the chains twice, with Pittman making a couple plays on that possession and Troy Franklin also stepping up. Ashford got the threes going in that drill, working with backfield mate Byron Cardwell, who trucked a safety on one run. … In a period of second- and third-down reps, Brown and the ones converted 3-of-4 opportunities, the last a tough catch by Moliki Matavao despite sustaining a big hit from Justin Flowe. …

That drill also included an interception on a tipped ball by Avante Dickerson. In 7-on-7, Jordan Happle broke up a pass that deflected to Verone McKinley III for a pick, and Max Wysocki nearly had an interception on a tipped pass in an early team period. … Wysocki had his near-interception, a tackle for loss and a recovery of a fumble forced by Marko Vidackovic, all in the same period.

Freshman outside linebacker Brandon Buckner

Other observations: On the subject of tips leading to interceptions, that's been a trend all preseason – when there's an interception, an unusually high percentage have been on tips and deflections. There haven't been many balls picked cleanly out of the air by the defense, which would seem to indicate the quarterbacks as a group have been doing a good job of putting the ball where they want it. … That being said, the defense will take interceptions however they can get them. At one point Thursday a cornerback broke up a pass by knocking it to the ground and was told by an assistant coach, "Interceptions move the needle, not PBUs." … Former UO offensive line coach Neal Zoumboukos attended a portion of practice.

Post-practice interviews:

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead

Senior receiver Johnny Johnson III

Senior offensive guard TJ Bass

Freshman running back Byron Cardwell

Freshman running back Seven McGee